The Final Judgement (1993)

Directed by: Otto Chan
Producer: Yu Mei-Ngai
Written by : Philip Cheng & Choi Ting-Ting
Starring: Simon Yam, Cecilia Yip, Paul Chun, Kenneth Chang, Bill Tung & May Law

From Otto Chan, who got on a bleak roll during the main era of Category III exploitation movies (but also proved skilled at comedy), The Final Judgement may be placed right smack in the busy era and by being a true crime movies it doesn't distinguish itself on paper either. But its strengths lie in the fact it's not really making a desperate plea to play with the rest of the exploitation movies. In fact, it doesn't push for the triangle with the III in it either.

Au Ping Keung (Simon Yam) is a family man and working hard to support his family, including working the evening shift at an ice cream store. After a girl turns up dead outside of it, Au is connected to her death through scientific evidence (but claims he's innocent) and is eventually sentenced to death. His wife (Cecilia Yip) struggles in the aftermath but finds his one last hope in lawyer Stanley Wu (Paul Chun) who suspects the evidence in the first trial wasn't very conclusive...

With Red To Kill director of photography Tony Miu lensing this and even the opening being somewhat similar to Billy Tang's grim shocker, Otto Chan soon settles down and brings what he intends to: A family and courtroom drama centered around a murder case. Because the focus is on delivering narrative rather than shocks (those are reserved for moments that call for it), Chan is doing something fairly mature during a time where these movies were being churned out quickly and FOR shock. The casting is inspired, with classy but game actors Yam and Cecilia Yip being very comfortable with each other and the material. It's a family where matters seem rocky. Their daughter is almost hurt at an amusement park but Au provides the determination and light hearted moments where he acts like a wide eyed psycho. It provides the drive and central question we're very much on board with: Did he do it, could he have done it?

With higher ups in the police force being very proud that scientific evidence is the final say in police investigation (Bill Tung's bit role as what is now considered an old school cop provides the counterbalance in a very clever role as written), it SEEMS Au is a victim of politics. Not only is this angle fresh for a Hong Kong movie of its kind but Chan has us sitting up looking at events in a keen manner. We want to know what happened and if you can get audience participation that way, you've gained a lot of ground.

Essentially the latter half is Cecilia Yip dealing with the aftermath of either a system destroying her or her husband destroying her for having possibly committed the crime and while Otto Chan pushes in a very bleak, distressing way and for way too strong melodramatic acting, the overall impact of The Final Judgement is effective. From a competent storyteller wanting to stand out and not throw rape, murder and blood on the screen just because he could.


reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson